Sleeper fantasy receivers -- revealed! 

July, 22, 2010

Today's winners in Stats & Analytics:

Antonio Gates, Scottie Pippen, Sidney Rice

Today's losers:

Calvin Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Brandon Marshall

Today we're going to start looking at how advanced metrics can help you build your fantasy football team. This is our initial installment on receivers, in which I discuss how to harness the power of the best stat largely unknown to fantasykind.

Let me say this first: I love a complicated new statistic as much as anybody, provided it says something meaningful or at least fun. But when it comes to fantasy teams, I think most of us want numbers we can understand more or less instantly and manipulate easily. Seriously, I've got the rest of my life to understand how to calculate the odds of a 70-68 set at Wimbledon or figure out who the National League MVP should have been in 1950. But over the next few months, a good chunk of my mental health is going to ride on being able to do three things quickly and decisively: customize stats to my fantasy league's scoring system; evaluate whether to trade, say, Vernon Davis and Ray Rice for Adrian Peterson and Kevin Boss; and track the results to reward or punish myself.

Christopher Harris recently made a similar point in the ESPN the Magazine Fantasy Preview. And I heartily recommend this excellent piece, where Harris outlines a bunch of "metrics that don't necessarily come from charting every play, and are often available to anyone with an Internet connection and an Excel spreadsheet."

But when it comes to evaluating receivers, there's one advanced yet immediately intelligible stat that incorporates everything you need to know: Yards Per Team Attempt, or Y/TA. To see why, let's look at how to measure the different pieces of a receiver's performance.

Peter Keating

ESPN Senior Writer
Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. His column, The Numbers, appears in every issue.